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Friday, October 8, 2010

Clearly, More Replay Is Needed


       By David Newhan


      I know hindsight is 20/20. I had the overwhelming urge to post another article on the use of instant replay for the playoffs before they started but I held back. My thought was that I was just beating up on the umps too much.

     Well, that is not the case. The ultimate goal is to help them by giving them every tool and piece of technology available to relieve some of the pressure on them and to get the call right.

     The fans deserve it, the players deserve it, the owners deserve it, and the umpires deserve it.

     Once again, however, our commissioner, Bud Selig, has failed us and the game by becoming retroactive instead of proactive.

     Guaranteed, he will put a system in for next year that goes beyond deciding if home runs were fair or foul or if there was fan interference on a potential home run.

     The problem is, he had plenty of evidence and time to implement an expanded use of replay for the 2010 season and its playoffs.

    Enough already! There is far too much at stake and the right technologies are available now to help the umpires.
 
   Unfortunately, Thursday's games provided more examples for why these playoffs needed an expanded replay review.

   Some type of system in which managers can challenge decisions, as in the NFL, must be implemented.

  All three games on the playoff docket were radically affected by a close call. In unprecedented manner, two managers were ejected from playoff games in one day….and a third, Bobby Cox (who ironically was the last manager to be tossed from a playoff game five years ago and has been ejected from more games than any manager in history) could or should have been if he'd had a better angle at a stolen base call that was proved wrong by replay.

  Game 2 of the Rangers vs. Rays ALDS saw Tampa manager Joe Maddon argue a check swing by the Rangers' Michael Young. Jerry Meals, umpiring first base, ruled that Young held up his swing on a close 2-2 pitch from Chad Qualls. On the next pitch, Young tagged Qualls for a home run to dead center. This chain of events drastically changed the make up of the game and the series. A 2-0 Ranger lead was now 5-0!

  When Maddon went to the mound he argued heatedly with home plate ump Jim Wolf. Wolf, protecting his partner Meals and with no other choice in the matter, ejected Maddon.

  Replays cleary showed that Young had indeed gone too far on his checked swing.

  Indeed, the true result should have been a strike out, leaving Qualls with still two on but two out and a great chance to get out of the inning and stay close enough to make a comeback relevant.

  Exhibit 2 came in Game 2, Yankees and Twins. Minnesota down 1-0 in games. Seventh inning of a 2-2 game with one on, Lance Berkman takes a close two strike pitch. Well, replays show it to be a little too close. MLB.com’s pitch-fix showed it to be a perfect pitch on the inside corner. Steeeerrrrikkkke three. Naked Gun moonwalk, batter out! Oooops, sorry, ball. Next pitch, Berkman doubles and Jorge Posada rolls around the bags to score from first. Twins now down 3-2 and pitcher Carl Pavano plainly upset on the mound. Manager Ron Gardenhire goes to the mound and lets plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt know what he thought of the previous pitch. Of course, Gardy gets run by an umpire with whom he has a heated history. Another game changing, series changing, chain of events.

  Case 3, game three of the day, Giants vs. Braves playoff opener. Buster Posey on first base decides to push the issue in a scoreless game by trying  to steal second. He takes off and is ruled safe by second base ump Paul Emmel. Tough call, high tag, close play. Upon review, he is out. Of course, the next batter, Cody Ross, singles and drives in what turns out to be the only run of the game. Tim Lincecum’s spectacular two hit shut out holds up and the Giants hold a one game lead in the series.

  I am not saying the Rays, Twins or Braves would have won if it hadn’t been for these calls. My point is that the calls changed the entire complexion and way in which the remainder of the game was played. I am not trying to belittle these umpires. I am not trying to say that their job is easy. Quite the opposite. It is obvious that these are close games and bang-bang type calls. The camera angles are there. The technologies are available. Let's utilize them and not make a mockery of the game.

   Players and organizations invest way too much for baseball to blow off the importance of trying to get every possible call right. No one is removing the human element. It's just a matter of getting it right!

   As I stated at the top, we've had enough time to implement a working system. The Commish has dropped the ball. Again, he is retroactive in his approach. Selig could have made progress on this issue and, pardon the pun, helped nip it in the Bud.

  But, no, we will have to wait for him and his special committee reviewing changes and enhancements to the game to make adjustments in the off season.

 Already, the players union wants to meet with the umpires. Players are not trying to show the umps up, and the umps want to get it right. Why not give both sides the tools to help? Take the pressure off the umpires and allow them to use replay. Too many instances have already occurred (last years playoff's, this year's, the Galarraga perfect game bid, etc.). The communication has broken down between the two sides. Help them restore the relationship by implementing some type of expanded replay system. Selig is a patient consensus builder who has helped bring in many changes that have enhanced the game's revenue and popularity, but he  has sat back too long on this issue, ignoring the obvious need for change. On replay, he needs to take the lead.

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